At the bottom of my father Philip’s (many!) boxes of archives, I discovered a heap of his father’s papers, my grandfather Edgar Bell.
Grandpa was also an Anglican priest, and discovered early on in his ministry that he had a gift of healing when he prayed with people. He went on to develop this gift, but I had no idea of the range, scope and meticulous care that went into his research. (You can read the booklet he published, Redemptive Healing, on this blog).
There are pages – whole books, made by him, handwritten – of Bible references. Up until now I had not associated Anglo-Catholic priests (which was the preferred spirituality of both my father and Grandpa) with such serious Bible study, but Grandpa looked up every single reference in the whole Bible which had anything to do with healing, starting from Genesis and finishing with Revelation.
He also read the Church Fathers on the subject, and seems to have got some secretarial help in noting the page numbers in each author which dealt with healing. He must have become one of the foremost authorities in the country on the subject of Christian healing; or, as he called it, Redemptive healing.
It is not possible for me to keep every scrap of paper, precious though they are: most of his notes are written on the backs of other things. He was very poor for much of his life, and wartime made it even more important not to waste paper. Much of it is faded and crumbling, but it is with a great sense of privilege that I untied the string that he had fastened round bundles of letters and opened the books covered in faded scrawl.
I will post snippets from his papers from time to time. Everything he writes is touched with a radiant spirituality and love for Jesus which blesses me even this far down the years, and his friends were of similar calibre.
Here is an extract from a letter sent to him on the eve of his first ordination as a Deacon, dated Whitsuntide 1917. The writer is an Arthur Anderton, elderly at that point. He says:
‘(a) When a man is admitted to the Priesthood, he is only at the setting out and not (as actions so often seem to imply) at the summit of his ministry, and has very much to learn. Truth is many-sided, and there are Christian consciences and convictions other than one’s own, which ought to be scrupulously and reverently respected. The gift of the Holy Spirit does not make a man there and then a sort of infallible Pope, but is bestowed to be cherished and cultivated (2 Tim 1:6). We need humility more perhaps than anything else, in these self-assertive days.
(b) Hold The Faith (and hold it unflinchingly, of course) – but hold it in love. Is it not true that people are more readily won by consideration and sympathy than by intemperate contradiction?’
Advice Grandpa followed all his life.